Khamis: Solve housing crisis by reducing high-rise development fees

As I reflect on our last meeting of the fiscal year, I am concerned about our contradictory actions when it comes to solving our housing crisis.

In the same meeting where we talked about ways to reduce fees, regulations and even provide forgivable loans for Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) — sometimes called ‘granny’ or ‘mother-in-law’ units — we argued about placing new regulations and maintaining very high fees on high-rise developments.

While I am encouraged that all of my colleagues have finally seen the light that fees and regulations discourage housing production of ADUs, we continue to debate placing laborious and costly regulations on developers who seek to reduce San Jose’s exorbitant and arbitrary housing development fees, which are threatening to bring production of new homes to a halt.

If we truly want to make a dent in our housing crisis by producing new homes, we need to treat these high-risk, high-cost and highly regulated high-rise projects — that can bring in 600 units at a time — with the same economic considerations as we give to low-density, low-risk, but highly profitable single-unit ADUs.

People may say that these ADUs have much lower impacts than high rise units in downtown.

While that is true if you’re looking at five or ten units, we’re talking about opening the door for thousands to be built in the city without park fees, traffic mitigation fees, school impact fees, etc. Meanwhile, high-density, high-rise developments (located near transportation and jobs), which can help us meet our housing development targets faster, are being met with a plethora of fee and regulatory increases.

It’s time to tie these economic lessons together: If we tax and regulate something more, we will get less of it.

Johnny Khamis is a San Jose councilmember first elected in 2012 to represent District 10, which spans Almaden and Blossom valleys.

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